I’ve got mail!

Thursday, June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Since mid-March I’ve been meaning to blog about this. But I had to wait until June. That’s roughly three months. In my book, that’s a long time.

So here’s the story. I’ve got a letter from the past. (March, specifically.) Scheduled to arrive on my birthday. Written by myself.

It’s actually an e-mail. Though I would have wanted the classic handwritten, hand-delivered letter—receiving a letter you yourself penned and mailed to yourself and which you totally forgot about until the day it arrives would feel a heavenly surprise, wouldn’t it?—I couldn’t complain about receiving an e-mail from my past self. And I have FutureMe  to thank for.

Some things weren’t going smoothly when I wrote that letter. That’s in fact one reason I wrote to myself. To sort of breathe out. To organize my thoughts. To give myself some pep talk.

Turns out the letter did more than what I originally planned it to do.

Turns out when I was writing that letter, I was unknowingly setting myself up for some surprise.

I didn’t know then that the words from the past would reverberate loud and clear in the present, that they would rouse me to believe more, that they would talk to me with wisdom bred from suffering. Because even though they are layered with anxiety, they are not bereft of hope and faith.

“Let’s see.” You’ve used that phrase a lot these days. It only goes to show how clueless you are of the future. But that’s okay. Just keep believing God’s in control. It is this belief that got—and still gets—you through the night. Please continue to harbor it in your heart. Things are going to be better.

Things got better indeed. What a difference three months make! I feel grateful that as I read the letter, I am reminded that whatever situation we find ourselves in, it will always turn for the better down the road. Night always gives way to day. And the moment light stretches out from the sky, it brightens up everything it touches.  Always.

So yes, the letter made me one happy, hope-filled birthday.

(in)courage

Thursday, June 7, 2012 § 7 Comments

Later this day, my guest post for (in)courage will go live. (in)courage is a community of women with a passionate love for Christ. Women from many places and many backgrounds gather together in that beautiful, beach house-themed space to warm everyone’s heart with sincere, encouraging words.

I can’t remember how I found out about (in)courage, but I’m glad I did. No, I’m glad God led me to it. In all the times I visited the site, there’s always this incredible feeling that I’m not alone in my journey–that there’s a bunch of amazing women who share my struggles, understand my hormone-induced peculiarities, and have the same desires and dreams.

That even if they don’t know me, they know my story. They know what to say to salve my troubled and oftentimes confused heart. They know the words of my rejoicing. They know because my story is also their story.

If you’re a woman and you want to find a home for your heart, visit (in)courage. I’m thankful for my first visit. And look now, it’s my time to share.

See you at (in)courage.

It’s okay to be clueless

Friday, May 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been asked more than once if I have any idea who I am going to be and what I’ll do in the future. In response, I’d bring out from my mental drawer a picture of my future self: A wife to a great man of God, mother to wonderful kids, still writing, working on to become or already an accomplished author, doing missions, teaching, speaking to people.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a perfect picture, because it is based on what I really want to be and do. Yet I know in my heart that my picture of the future wouldn’t be accurate. This is just according to my plan, so its certainty cannot be guaranteed. Not like the certainty of God’s plans.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

Truth be told, I’ve long decided to charge my own plans to give way to the plans of my God. I’ve dedicated every piece of myself to pursue God’s ordained future for me. Even though I have no complete picture of it. Even though I am clueless.

But no matter how I try to convince myself that being clueless of the future could mean a thrill-filled and adventurous journey, sometimes I’m just terrified. After all, this kind of journey requires me to live with God’s habit of revealing only tiny detail after tiny detail of His grand plan. He shows only the road I need at the moment and leaves all the others hidden until I need to walk on them. This is not ideal for someone like me who appreciates detailed plans and advanced knowledge of routes, roadblocks, and twists and turns.

And believe me, I’ve asked God a hundred times to let me in on His plans, and always He responds not with a detailed map or with step-by-step instructions, but with “Trust me, my child, I know which paths to take you.”

So I choose to rest on that. Even though I don’t completely understand how He works, I’ll respond to his invitation to completely submit to His plans. In the first place, He knows more than I do. He knows my future even before my past and present came to being.

His plans are to make me prosperous and to be with me whichever road I traverse. And by submitting to His plans, I can be assured of an exceedingly beautiful future I cannot knit together with my own power.

My only part is to take the journey—to hold His hand as He leads me along, to move my feet when He shows me the way, to lean against Him when He instructs me to rest, to make a turn when He needs me to change paths, and to communicate with Him every step I make.

I don’t need to know all the details of God’s plans. I won’t fully comprehend them after all, so with God’s grace, I’m learning to rejoice even in my cluelessness. Besides, it’s enough to know that the creative and wise God whose hand made the universe out of nothing is the same God who has planned out my future to the minutest detail.

Friends, I don’t how you might be struggling with totally embracing—or seeking—God’s plans for you. But trust that He knows every concern and hears every question, and He will bring to light whatever you need to know at this moment, in this season.

A year after

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

My blog is already a year old, would you believe? I still can remember how I paired numerous words to create a name for the blog, how I looked for a theme that matched what I had in mind, and how I drafted the first entry. I’m super meticulous, so it took me a lot of time to accomplish these. In fact, even the trivial things made me debate with myself several times.

Oh, how time flies!

To my dear readers, thank you, thank you for sticking around. Could you keep coming back for another year? I’ve got more to share.

To those who got here via keyword searches, I hope you found what you needed to find.

And to those who just got here, thanks for dropping by. Please feel free to explore the blog. And maybe the following entries could give you a good start:

Everything started with my desire to share myself, and gladly I’d say that my purpose for the blog remains the same—to inspire, encourage, and, maybe, entertain people with my realizations, observations, and stories. Hopefully, the blog will continue to live out what it was created to do in the coming years.

Thank you, Jesus, for the inspirations! Please bless my art. All this is for your glory.

When God doesn’t answer

Saturday, March 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

I wouldn’t ask if you ever prayed for something—and prayed for it real hard—and nothing happened, because I pretty much know what you’d say. We all have unanswered prayers, don’t we? And let’s be honest, we don’t welcome unanswered prayers with loud rejoicing and colorful banners and merrymaking. We welcome them with griping and questioning and some more griping.

I find those reactions quite natural, though, because really, how would we reconcile the existence of unanswered prayers with the biblical truth that God hears and answers prayers?

But unanswered prayers do happen. In fact, the Bible explicitly warns us that God won’t answer our prayers if we have:

  • unrepented sins (Isaiah 59:1-2),
  • selfish motives (James 4:3),
  • unbelief (James 1:5-7),
  • unforgiveness (Mark 11:25),
  • unresolved marital conflicts (1 Peter 3:7).

Aware of this truth, many of us make sure all these hindrances have been addressed when we meet with God. And when we think there are no longer roadblocks between our prayers and Him, we get confident we will get answers. But realistically, there are times that simply we won’t have them.

Sometimes He doesn’t give what we pray for.

Sometimes He even chooses not to respond.

Sometimes He chooses to just be silent.

And this we have a hard time accepting because it goes against what we know of as praying. Sadly, we’ve reduced praying to asking things from God and getting them—immediately.

(Photo from All Women Are Beautiful)

What we sometimes don’t realize is that meeting our prayers is not the only way God answers. Many times, even His silence—His seeming inaction and purposeful delays included—is an answer in itself.

Because it is during His silence that we learn to cling more to God, to grow more familiar with His principles and leadings, to wrestle with Him until finally we understand what sovereignty means. It is at this moment that He shapes our desires according to His desires so that we can fully see the wisdom in surrendering to His will.

Because in the midst of non-answers, He certainly can assure us that even if things unravel at the seams and yes, even if He remains silent when we ask from Him, He doesn’t turn a deaf ear. He hears. He sees the big picture, and so He knows  just the right answer to every one of our prayers.

He loves me, yes I know

Friday, March 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been asking God a lot of things lately — things that deeply concern me. Finally, he answered. During my quiet time yesterday, He led me to Psalms 32, 33, and 86, where His love was described as unfailing and abounding. God was clearly comforting me with the knowledge of His love; it’s as if He was saying, “I love you. My love is enough. Because you know I love you, you can rest. You can rest in my love.”

This is what I imagine our conversations have looked like:

Me: Lord, I want this.

God: I love you.

Me: Lord, I want to go to this.

God: I love you.

Me: Lord, I’m afraid. Please direct my steps.

God: I love you.

Me: Lord, can you hear me?

God: I love you.

Isn’t that sweet? God obviously matches my concerns with His love. He wants me to focus not on my situation but to look instead on the magnitude of His affection. I’ve been a Christian long enough that His love for me has sort of become a platitude, a very familiar concept. So God now is reminding me by refreshing my attitude toward His love. He wants me to digest it like a sumptuous meal I’ve never tasted before.

Yes, I have needs. Yes, I have desires. But God’s love is enough to cover all those and more. And this makes me realize that knowing His love is far more important than pursuing other things. Because I know He loves me,  I can sit back and trust with renewed vigor.

Now, isn’t God’s love the greatest and most comforting answer to my pleas? I know it is, because it’s that one thing that can truly and sufficiently sustain me. It’s what I really need and, in my heart of hearts, desire.

Shut up

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

(Note: This is an entry I wrote three years ago and which has finally found its way to my blog.)

Not that I don’t have anything to say, but I am not so much of a talker. Though I’ve improved a bit and learned the art of starting and engaging in conversations, the old me asserts itself from time to time. I could be the seatmate who wouldn’t speak unless talked to. I could hitch into your car and we could drive for hours without hearing from me. We could dine together and you couldn’t even hear me chew. My silence gives me a strange sense of comfort that I could stand being mum for a considerable time, being virtually alone and left to my own thoughts.

What people don’t know is that my mind is an active field where thoughts whiz fast, buzz around, and willfully hover for I could only tell how long. Varied topics hop in, drawing my opinion and coloring my imagination, and hop out only to give space to yet other timely subjects.

Outwardly, I am silent. Inwardly, I talk non-stop.

I have never been bothered by this mental blabbering. In fact, I find it cathartic and healthy. If you stop talking to yourself, you are about as good as a robot, randomly walking the earth with no connection to his inner being. The danger in this mental blabbering, however, is that if it goes too much, it evolves from being cathartic to unsettling, from being healthy to distracting. The mind can barely contain the busyness and the noise, which could be as loud and disturbing as the combined sounds of gunshots, automobile engines, dog barks, and everything else that keeps you awake at night. So in time, the mind would just get tired.

The past months I was at my loudest, mainly provoked by some plans that didn’t merit fruition. I talked to myself, assessed the events, and figured what went wrong. This was while I talked to God, asked why they happened, and pleaded to let me know what in the first place I should be doing.

Praying came off as the most natural thing to do. I thought that over myself and a few people, God should be the first one I should talk to. He would sure reply, I believed. But what I hadn’t expected was that God would choose to be silent. Gradually getting impatient, I prayed some more. I talked to Him more.

Instead of directions and leading, what I got was a busy tone. Either God was completely ignoring me or wasn’t hearing me, I thought. But it was not the time to give up. So even though my mind and soul were both tired, I did what I am good at: pestering—I kept pestering God. “Hello, God! Are you there?” I went on like a kid. “C’mon, talk to me. Hear me, please.”

I couldn’t tell how mentally loud I was, but I am sure I was too loud that if I could, I would get out of myself and go to someplace peaceful. I couldn’t stand myself.

Turned out God couldn’t as well. Maybe tired of my gibberish talks, He finally bellowed at me. “Ssshhhh . . .  You talk too much,” I sensed Him speaking. “Can you stop for a while and just listen?”

That did it for me.

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but it did reduce me to silence.  He was, all along, talking to me. I just couldn’t hear because I was so into my talking, my inner voice drowning out God’s. I decided to shut up right then.

I wouldn’t say it was easy to stay silent. Being naturally worry freak, I’m more inclined to panic, to complain, or to nag. But there was something liberating in keeping still. Aside from enabling me to listen, it brought back my focus and upped my sensitivity to discern God’s leading. Only then was I able to release the fears that had been terrorizing me and begin to see things in light of His will.

Logic tells us that after talking, we shut up and listen. Whether or not we’re expecting a response, it is how to properly communicate. It is therefore rude, unwise, and unethical if we continuously chatter or cut the other end mid-sentence. It’s likely that the other end will put himself on hold until we’re done. The only problem is that if he loses his mood, interest, or train of thoughts, we might not get him to talk again, so we lose whatever chance we have to hear what he’s going to say.

Now apply that to the most important of our conversations — prayer.

Most of us think that when we pray, we’ve already done our part. Wrong. We’ve only done half of the job. If we are serious about seeking God, we should communicate with Him like any logical, respectful, and sane person would. Pray, be still, then listen.

God might be talking to you right now, but you can’t hear because you’re rattling on and on and on. Remain silent for a while and listen. The word silent, by the way, forms the word listen. They are related. Fact is, they are married.

When I look back, I hope I sat still and listened, so I wouldn’t have to spend my time, resources, and energy on something that in the end amounted to nothing. I wish I knew how to shut up. The discipline of stillness was completely foreign to me until I was placed in a situation where there were no other options but to remain silent and to listen. Thankfully, God is unlike any of us. He did not give up on me and chose to wait until I could listen. Certainly, He thought I was worth some more tries.

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